Radio reporter shot dead in Brazil; suspect arrested

New York, October 20, 2010–Brazilian police on Tuesday arrested a man suspected of killing radio reporter Francisco Gomes de Medeiros in the city of Caicó, state of Rio Grande do Norte, local press reports said. Gomes was shot to death Monday in front of his house. The Committee to Protect Journalists welcomes the arrest and calls on Brazilian authorities to prosecute all those responsible to the full extent of the law.

A gunman aboard a motorcycle shot Gomes at least five times around 9 p.m. in the Caicó neighborhood of Paraíba, Brazilian news reports said. The journalist was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at a local hospital.

Gomes, 48, news director of local broadcaster Radio Caicó, had reported on a variety of local topics, including government corruption, crime, and drug trafficking, according to local news accounts. He also published stories on a personal blog. In September, Gomes broke a story on vote-tampering in Rio Grande do Norte while covering the Brazilian general elections. The story described local politicians buying votes in exchange for crack cocaine, and was picked up nationwide, according to Portal Imprensa, a Sao Paulo-based news site focused on press issues. Soon after the piece aired, Gomes received anonymous death threats, news reports said.

On Tuesday, state police arrested João Francisco dos Santos in the killing, local news media reported. Police allege that Dos Santos admitted killing Gomes in reprisal for the reporter’s coverage of his 2007 conviction on armed robbery charges. Despite the suspect’s reported statement, state police said they are still investigating the case and haven’t ruled out further leads. Brazilian media quoted Gomes’ relatives and friends as saying they believed drug traffickers were behind the killing.

“We are pleased that progress is apparently being made in the killing of our colleague,” said Carlos Lauría, CPJ’s senior coordinator for the Americas. “We call on Brazilian authorities to thoroughly investigate all aspects of this case and bring everyone responsible to justice.”

Twenty other reporters have been killed in Brazil since 1992, at least 16 in direct retaliation for their work, CPJ research shows.